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Otis Murphy, Saxophonist, Professor

As one the first people of color in my profession, I am grateful. I had no idea that I was going to be the first to do something.

My children are half me and half Japanese. I’ve gone to Japan every year since 2001. When I go to Asia, I am different. It’s a calling to me to make connections. I am a bridge. People are scared of me, and fascinated by me. It’s amazing how much weight I can carry by simply smiling. I’ve met so many people by just smiling. I’ve had so many great conversations by just smiling. A child can look at me on a train, and if I smile, we can connect. People are just people everywhere.

I grew up in Georgia, and never left until I learned to play the saxophone. In the south, people wouldn’t serve my dad, and I grew up hearing about that. Because of racial profiling, I was pulled over by the police when I was in college. Yet another black person walking down the street can say, “Hey brother,” and we connect.

In the south, people expected me to play jazz. People were so disappointed at first when they heard me play classical music. However, this is another way in which I was able to become a bridge.

I can use my ability to carry weight by demonstrating reliability. It’s so important for our children. Our students need to matter. Our kids need to matter.


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